On the surface, Oklahoma’s visit to Fort Worth Saturday (4 p.m. CST, FOX) to face No. 21 TCU is one of two important games on the Big 12 schedule.
A deeper dive reveals several intriguing backstory angles that add some juice.
- A close game is likely based on recent history. The teams have met four times as Big 12 opponents and the average margin of victory has been 3.8 points. None of the games has been decided by more than a touchdown.
- Last season in Norman, with a backup quarterback, TCU nearly spoiled Oklahoma’s run to the College Football Playoff. Safety Steven Parker’s Mutombo-esque deflection of Bram Kohlhausen’s two-point try preserved the Sooners’ 30-29 victory.
- Both quarterbacks are transfers from other programs in charge of similarly wide-open attacks. TCU’s Kenny Hill is resurrecting his career after transferring from Texas A&M. Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield walked on at Texas Tech and won the starting job before transferring to OU.
- Mayfield and TCU coach Gary Patterson got into a verbal spat at the end of last season. Mayfield blamed TCU for its teasing non-recruitment and said Patterson doesn’t like him. Patterson fired back by blaming Mayfield not getting scholarship offers on Mayfield’s father. “He’s an arrogant guy who thinks he knows everything,” Patterson said. “If people knew the whole story, they might not have a great opinion of Baker or his father.”
- This week Patterson was asked about that zinger and said that it’s in the past. “He’s at a great university, in a great place and I wish him the best of luck,” he said. Mayfield also said his recruitment saga is something that happened four years ago. The OU quarterback, though, is renowned for using slights as motivation.
If that’s not enough to pique your interest, this game matters. Oklahoma (1-2) has never started 1-3 under coach Bob Stoops. Despite their losses to Houston and Ohio State, the Sooners can still win their 10th Big 12 title.
“That’s a big deal to us, and we’ve done it a fair amount,” OU coach Bob Stoops said.
“We had a good week last week of just improving ourselves as much as anything. That’s been the frustration for me. I don’t feel we’ve played up to what we’re capable of. We might not still have won, I get that. But you want to be able to play [how] you’re capable. We’re only three games into it. We have to be able to do that here this week and start doing that during the Big 12 [schedule].”
Mayfield and Hill are in charge of offenses that can easily score 40 and above. Both teams also have an “ix” factor. (It’s more than an X-factor.)
TCU junior running back Kyle Hicks leads the team in rushing at 78.5 yards per game and is also the Frogs’ leading receiver. Oklahoma sophomore Joe Mixon is averaging 8.4 yards per carry but has just 28 attempts. His career average of 7.01 yards per carry is the highest for a Sooner with at least 100 carries in coach Bob Stoops’ 18 seasons.
“Just watching him compared to last year, he really looks like he’s leaned himself up. He looks faster,” Patterson said. “He’s always been a good player, but to me he looks faster than a year ago. They’re using him a lot more in the pass game. He’s one of those guys that you need to make sure, wherever he is on the field, that you need to pay close attention to him.”
The defenses for both teams have struggled, particularly in the secondary. That has led to both teams carrying a negative turnover margin.
“We constantly stress it, both sides of the ball,” Stoops said. “Sometimes the other team cooperates with you and other times they don’t. If they’re careless with it, you have more opportunities to get it and if you’re really good at taking care of it, they don’t get it very much. The other teams usually helps you a little bit as well.”
TCU (3-1) has a shot at the CFP if it can run the Big 12 table. It is coming off a strong second-half effort in a 33-3 victory at SMU. The Frogs’ offense and defense both performed at the level expected for a team that was ranked in the top 15 before the season started.
“These last two weeks of practice have been our best practices in a long, long time,” TCU defensive end John Carraway said. “I just think the guys are really improving about how they take that attitude to practice and how they take that attitude to film and to the game as a whole.
“Everybody wants a trophy. Right now, Oklahoma has the Big 12 trophy, and we’ve got to take it from them.”